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This album is pure, clean, austere. Not austere in the sense of frugal or bleak – no, not at all. Austere in the sense of simplicity, modesty and honesty, the powerful starkness you experience in the unadorned interior of an abbey such as Pontigny. I have lived with and loved this album for twelve months, from the very first listening. A Journey by Maciek Pysz is my album of 2015 because of its beauty, its emotional depth and variety, and the dazzling compositional and performance talents of Maciek Pysz on guitar.
A Journey is guitarist and composer MaciekPysz’s second album, recorded and engineered once more by Stefano Amerio at Artesuono Studio with the same musicians as his first album Insight – Yuri Goloubev on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums – but with the inspired choice of Daniele di Bonaventura on piano and bandoneon. The mutual inspiration between Pysz and Bonaventura on bandoneon is nowhere clearer than on the haunting Innocente by Ralph Towner with its delicate impressionist water colour introduction. This has a touch of genius about it, inspired by the moment.
You can appreciate this album for the beauty of the sound: clear, pristine and sparkling yet warm – everything you would want to hear in an acoustic guitar if you can’t actually be in the room with it – this album is made for vinyl. But you soon forget the technicalities as you are swept away in the emotions of each composition. Take Water Streets inspired by a trip to Venice, the gentle rocking of a gondola, the ripple of sunlight on ancient facades, masks and carnival – you experience all of these things unforgettably in just a few bars. The clarity is not just clarity of sound, but clarity and honesty of emotion, and that is why I love this album so much. There is no escaping the wistfulness of Until Next Time, the opening bandoneon so full of longing, the warmth and peace of Coming Home, the affection in Paris, the joyous momentum of Always On The Move.
Insight was my album of 2013, reviewed here. There is no denying the technical, stylistic and emotional growth in this second album, the easy flow of melody disguising music that is challenging to perform. It is unnecessary to list influences since Maciek has his own sound and colour pallet, as subtle, gorgeous and extensive as any painter’s, every note delivered with passion and breathtaking skill. It was quite evidently a magical few days in the studio with inspiration from all involved. And the order of tracks is very satisfying, from opening Fresh Look to closing Coming Home. A perfectly executed work of art in every sense. And what next? Well, I for one can’t wait for the next stage in this particular journey….but in the meantime, I will always enjoy AJourney.
Recently, guitarist and composer Maciek Pysz completed an 18-date tour of England and Wales. I arranged most of this tour and helped out with PR and tour management. Here are 10 things I learned, they were published in London Jazz News on 7 December 2015.
It came to me quite suddenly – those half remembered words of John Keats “full-throated ease” and after the concert I hurried back to Ode to a Nightingale to rediscover what had prompted this image in my mind. For truly many of the sounds we heard from the guitars of Maciek Pysz last night at the launch of his second album A Journey at The Forge in Camden were full throated like a nightingale, gorgeous, rising above the other instruments effortlessly, hanging in the air, trailing off so gently and gracefully. The evening was one for the senses and for our imaginations. For Maciek’s dazzlingly memorable tunes and rhythms prompt you to see with his eyes, hear with his ears – whether it is a sophisticated Venice in Water Streets, a Paris basement jazz club or memories of his childhood.
And Keats’ warm South was there too in the shape of Italian ECM artist Daniele di Bonaventura on nostaglic bandoneon and rippling piano. The delicate abstract conversations between bandoneon and guitar in Ralph Towner’s Innocente and Pysz’s Desert highlights of the evening. This was an evening to savour the sight as well as the sound of music-making – sometimes Daniele looked to the ceiling, gently rocking in his chair, the sound of buttons lightly touched like tiny gasps. Maciek’s guitar sits so easily in his lap, a natural extension of his arms and fingers, his fingers a blur – can he really be the only person making all those beautiful sounds? And Yuri Goloubev‘s wry lop-sided smile as he cascades up and down his strings faster and faster, AsafSirkis‘ closed eyes as he plays, his hands pitter-pattering on the udu. And surely this is why we come out to concerts – to see as well as hear? Recent tragic events were not forgotten as Maciek dedicated his spirited, stylish Paris to the people of the city he loves very much.
We would have loved an encore but our time was up. We walked off into the night aware we had had a rare experience, a bit like hearing a nightingale.
Maciek Pysz’s tour continues until 28 November 2015
Alchemy – the process of turning base metals into gold. That’s how a tour seems to me – the base metal is the long drive to the gig, snatched meals, unloading the car (which Tardis-like has to hold far more than you can imagine), the patient carrying of stuff up or down stairs to the silent stage, the bleak empty rows of chairs, the music just notes on a page. The alchemy is what happens when you mix supreme virtuosity, inspiration and shared experience. And as this first full week of the tour ended with news of the tragedy in Paris, the beauty was punctured, Messenger and Facebook anxiously consulted. The gold had turned back to base metal.
But earlier there was definitely a touch of Eleanor Rigby in Yuri Goloubev’s graceful arco opening to Peacefully Waiting.Not for the first time was I reminded of how deep is the influence of The Beatles on all our listening. I heard it again in the upbeat Ringo-like chug from Asaf Sirkis in Those Days when played in Cambridge. The title of the new album by Maciek Pysz is ‘A Journey’ and it seems to me that Maciek is describing interior journeys as much as literal ones in his compositions, that the musical descriptions of places like Venice in Water Streets are also descriptions of himself.
When an audience member says to me “I had not heard of Maciek before, I am so glad I came, I love this, I can’t wait to put the cd on when I get home”, when a musician in the audience involuntarily breathes “Oooo…”, when I look round and see people smiling with happiness, then there is the alchemy. And as for me, I will try to listen with the stillness of Asaf in the next concerts.
Of course none of these wonderful evenings would happen without the toil of unpaid promoters who bear the financial risk of running an event. From the welcome on our arrival, the heartfelt introductions (“I have been really looking forward to this gig, we are so lucky to have this band with us tonight”) to the final cheery wave goodbye, they make all the difference and help turn the mundane into gold.
The Maciek Pysz ‘A Journey’ Album Release Tour continues til 28th November 2015. Album on Dot Time Records.